Bard Hill was commissioned as a Coast defence (CD)/Chain Home Low radar station. It was sited on the hill to the south of Salthouse on the north Norfolk coast.
On 21st January 1942 Bard Hill was included in the first batch of army radar station used for coast watching to be taken over by the RAF and became immediately operational under its new masters. Chain Home Low (CHL) was established to overcome the inability of the main Chain Home radars to see aircraft below about 1,500 feet thus filling the gaps in the CH chain.
Crew manning consisted of the normal crew establishment for an aircraft watching CHL plus four naval and four army observers (ratings and other ranks, one for each of four watches) whose duties were to man the reporting lines to their appropriate operations rooms.
By 1942, German jamming of the CHL rendered the CHL stations less effective. Research had been rushing head and this now allowed a change from the metric to the centimetric wavelengths to be instigated. This resulted in a pencil beam which the Germans found very difficult to jam and allowed the RAF to ‘look lower’ with the new equipment than was possible with the older CHL radars, for this latter reason the stations became known as Chain Home Extra Low (CHEL) stations.
By mid-1943 Bard Hill was also equipped with a coast defence No. 1 Mk VI radar mounted on top of a War Office 200’ steel tower using the high powered equipment known as the Naval Type 277.
The radar equipment was installed in a Nissen hut at the base of the tower a short distance from the earlier Type 2 CHL which also remained in use. Bard Hill became operational with this equipment in August 1943, but a review of operational radars that month resulted in a change of nomenclature to an Air Ministry Experimental Station (AMES) Type 54 CHEL radar.
With the improvement in the weather, German E-boats had resumed their activity off the Norfolk coast and all coastal radar stations were employed in the detection and tracking of the raiders. Early in the morning of 15th January 1944 the ‘K’ station operators at Bard Hill had detected a group of three E-boats. They passed two plots on the boats and then had to report “station off the air” as a low flying Lancaster B.III of No. 61 Squadron collided with their aerial. Nobody on the station was hurt, but one of the aircraft crew was seriously injured and the rest of the crew were killed when the plane crashed on Langham Airfield.
A list of ground radar stations still operational in December 1945 only lists the Type 2 as being on the site with a future operational function required by Fighter Command as a CHL station. It is also listed in a similar list dated 1947.
In 1953 Bard Hill was chosen as the site of prototype Decca Type 80 Centimetric long range radar know as Green Garlic. The radar was renamed Type 80 from June 1954. All the production Type 80 radars from around the UK had been handed over to the RAF by mid 1957.
In March 1960 a new Passive Defence radar was established under the codename ‘Project Winkle’; the PDR could determine the position of a large number of jammers simultaneously. In trials four aircraft were used with the Type 80 radar. A horn aerial and the bulk of the PDR equipment was erected at the trials site at Bard Hill with a beamed aerial at Bempton in Yorkshire. Experimental work on the prototype at Bard Hill ceased by the end of 1960 when the radar was dismantled.
Today, Bard Hill is a public open space cross crossed by footpaths and bridleways. Although not shown on any maps a road still runs to the site of the radar station where two buildings still remain. The standby generator was housed in a Nissen hut surrounded by a 7’ high blast wall. The Nissen hut has gone but the blast wall still remains as does the concrete plinth that supported the generator. Close by another small brick building house the IFF equipment (The term IFF derives from the words ‘Identification Friend or Foe. IFF allowed a radio operator to identify friendly aircraft. Before the outbreak of war a simple IFF system was developed in Britain. Aircraft were fitted with aerials incorporating motor-driven tuners that caused the reflected signal received by ground radar stations to vary in amplitude)
Between the two buildings are the four metal feet of the 200 foot tower with the base of the building that housed the radar equipment alongside. A number of other hut bases can be seen in the vicinity.
- Air Defence Radar Museum, Neatishead
- Bob Jenner